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Three hikers trekking through thick, green forest growth
Alan Webber | Adobe Stock

The Insect-Repellent Clothing and Gear Every Traveler Should Have

At best, getting a bug bite is an itchy nuisance for a few days. At worst, it could expose you to a serious or even deadly disease. Common mosquito-borne illnesses include malaria, dengue, chikungunya, West Nile virus, and Zika virus, while ticks can spread Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and other maladies. To protect yourself, consider packing insect-repellent clothing and other gear on hiking trips, tropical vacations, or any other trips where you might be at risk of bug bites.

Insect-Repellent Clothing

Model wearing women's InsectShield hoodie from L.L. Bean (left) and man wearing an insect repellent shirt from Craghoppers (right)
L.L. Bean & Craghoppers

The Insect Shield clothing line from Craghoppers includes pants, button-down shirts, T-shirts, hoodies, dresses, hats, and more. This bug-repellent clothing has other useful travel features as well, including moisture-wicking technology and sun protection.

Another option is Women’s Insect Shield Hoodie, which lives up to its name with clothes that offer protection from insects for 70 washes.

Permethrin Clothing Spray

sawyer permethrin clothing spray

If you don’t want to invest in a whole new wardrobe of insect-repellent clothing, treat what you already have with permethrin spray, a bug repellent designed to be used on clothing and shoes (but not skin!) that lasts through multiple washings. This permethrin spray for clothes is effective against mosquitoes, ticks, mites, and other bugs for six washings or six weeks, and it’s as effective as 100 percent DEET. Odorless after drying, it won’t stain or damage your clothes, so you can wear them again after your trip.

Long-Sleeved Shirts and Pants

Models showing the men's and women's cuts of Try the Silver Ridge Lite Long Sleeve shirts

The more covered your skin is, the harder it is for mosquitoes to feast on you. Of course, it’s likely to be warm where the bugs are, which makes wearing long shirts and pants unappealing. Pack lightweight, light-colored clothing like these travel-friendly long-sleeve shirts, which can actually help you stay cooler than short sleeves thanks to their moisture-wicking properties.

Columbia makes a number of high-performance long-sleeved shirts specifically designed to keep you cool even while you’re covered up. Try the Silver Ridge Lite Long Sleeve, which is available for both men and women; it’s got vents, moisture-wicking fabric, and UPF 50 sun protection to keep you cool and shielded from the sun. Pair it with a lightweight, stretchy pair of hiking pants, such as the Women’s Saturday Trail Stretch Pant or the Men’s Silver Ridge Convertible Pant.

Bonus: Shirts and pants made from UPF fabric will also protect you from harmful UV rays. I like these pants from Coolibar, specifically designed to be worn in hot and sunny environments.

Travel Mosquito Bed Net

Mosquito netting canopy tucked over queen sized bed (left) and mosquito netting canopy compressed down into green carrying case (right)

Just because you’re staying in a hotel room doesn’t mean that mosquitos can’t get in—whether it’s via a hole in your window screen or just by flying in alongside you as you enter. That’s why it’s a good idea to pack a mosquito net for your bed if you’re staying in a place at risk for mosquito-borne diseases. Mosquito nets are also useful if you’re camping in an area with lots of bugs.

This one from Universal Backpackers is great for travel, as it needs just a single rope to hang from and folds into a small and lightweight bag.

EPA-Registered Insect Repellent

DEET-free Repel bugspray (left) and Repel 100 concentrated DEET bugspray (right)
The Home Depot & Walmart

Not all bug sprays are created equal. Only some ingredients are scientifically proven to repel bugs. Check to see if your insect spray meets the requirements with this search tool from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

One option is Repel 100, a spray with super concentrated DEET for heavy-duty bug conditions. The one-ounce size is perfect for travel and it protects for up to 10 hours, so you don’t need a ton.

For a more natural solution, look for products containing oil of lemon eucalyptus (which is one of the only non-chemical repellents recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), such as this option from Repel.

Mosquito Head Net

Woman wearing hat with mosquito netting (left) and man wearing hat with mosquito netting while hiking by a stream (right)

You might look at the picture of this mosquito head net and scoff, thinking that you’d never be caught dead wearing one, but you might change your mind if your destination is swarming with bugs. Small and lightweight, this mosquito head net is made from a fine black mesh (which is easy to see through) and comes with its own stuff sack for easy packing.

Insect-Repellent Bands and Wipes

Insect repellent bracelets (left) and insect repellent wipes with DEET (right)
Walmart & Amazon

If you are flying carry-on only and don’t want to worry about fitting bug sprays into your 3-1-1 bag, insect repellent bands and wipes are a great alternative. For wipes, this 20-Count Repel Mosquito Wipes is affordable and contains DEET, so you’ll be protected without spending a lot of money.

An alternative form of mosquito protection is the Mosquito Repellent Bracelet, which is waterproof and non-toxic, and offers protection for up to 200 hours.

Caroline Morse loves combining practical fashion and travel. Follow her adventures around the world on Instagram @TravelWithCaroline and on Twitter @CarolineMorse1.

All of the products featured in this story were hand-selected by our travel editors. Some of the links featured in this story are affiliate links, and SmarterTravel may collect a commission (at no cost to you) if you shop through them.

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2016. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

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